Tuesday 24 October 2017

New chair crafted for the inauguration

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

The President-elect, Michael D Higgins, will have a new chair for the inauguration ceremony at Dublin Castle on November 11.

Fashioned from Irish white oak -- a symbol of strength, kingship, endurance and fertility -- the new presidential chair was specially commissioned by the Office of Public Works, which took delivery just last week, the Sunday Independent has learned. The cost of the chair will not be revealed.

Mr Higgins will be brought to St Patrick's Hall on Inauguration Day with his wife Sabina in a 1974 Rolls Royce, escorted by motorcycle outriders drawn from the Defence Forces' Second Cavalry Squadron.

He will take his oath, administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as the ninth President of Ireland.

After delivering his inauguration address, he will be escorted to Aras an Uachtarain.

The new chair represents a break with colonial past. It replaces the Viceregal throne -- the former throne of the Viceroy of Ireland, otherwise the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland -- which has been used to inaugurate every President since Douglas Hyde. The original crown, which used to adorn the top rail, was removed before the first inauguration in 1938 and an Irish harp stitched into the fabric.

Master craftsman John Lee, of Pagestown, Maynooth, Co Kildare, won the tender to make the new chair and says the outstretched arms on the chair were inspired by the phrase 'Cead Mile Failte', which he personally associates with outgoing President Mary McAleese.

He had to fill an exacting brief. The OPW tender document for the Presidential Inauguration Chair stated that the piece should be "presidential, not regal" without being "overwhelming or dominating".

"It must be of a sufficient timeless design and character to be suitable for use for many future inaugurations."

According to Mr Lee, the white oak was procured in Kilkenny from a sustainable source.

"It is quite modern but the over-riding thing I had to think about was to reflect the office of the Presidency," said Mr Lee.

Mary McAleese will remain in Aras an Uachtarain until just 18 hours before Mr Higgins swears his allegiance to the Constitution and receives the presidential Seal of Office.

Mrs McAleese has indicated that she intends to return to study after she leaves office and intends to live in her and husband Martin's lakeshore home in Co Roscommon.

Sunday Independent

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